Mind Your Language

With the situation hotting up, a call to ‘Mind Your Language’ would not, I think, be superfluous.

Politicians of all hues will tend to use double-entendre words. For example, the word ‘sanction’ is likely to mislead because it could mean either approval or condemnation. The same ambiguity applies to the word in French and also therefore in Creole.

A certain French politician was reported as having said “Une promesse ne lie que celui qui y croit” (A promise is binding only on the one who believes in it).

Recently someone claimed to have produced a “quantum leap”, meaning or suggesting that it was a huge change brought about by him. However from the book ‘The Little Book of Science’ by John Gribbin (Penguin Books) I read the following: “One of the scientific terms that has entered popular language is the ‘quantum leap’. Curiously, it has almost the opposite meaning in popular language to its scientific meaning. In science, the quantum’s most important feature is that it is the smallest possible change that can be made to a system. The other crucial feature of a quantum leap is that if a system, such as an atom, has a choice of states to leap into, it makes its choice about which way to go entirely at random. So a quantum leap is the smallest change it is possible to make, and has been made entirely at random. Something to ponder the next time a politician claims that a new policy represents a ‘quantum leap’ advance over the old way of doing things.” The word random in the text needs to the emphasized.

The word “prestige”, i.e. an admirable or high standing in the eyes of many by virtue of success or wealth, is likely to be misleading. How many of us know that it came from the Latin word praestigiao which applied to a juggler’s tricks. So beware of any prestigious scheme likely to be proposed in electoral manifestoes or programs. The opposition may be critical of a project but a serious estimate of its cost is critical to its realization. How many of such projects will be so accompanied remains to be seen.

To hold up could mean to support e.g. when I hold up a plank for you to nail it on a wall or to hinder as when a small accident held up the traffic to Port Louis for hours. What about a hold-up of an electorate?

When an electoral program is published and someone tells you that he/she has scanned it, does it mean that he has examined it carefully or merely glanced at it?

Gender equality: Those ladies who clamour for it use the word “mari” to mean better, very much, stronger, superior, etc., without realizing that the word’s use in that sense was first used by Sir Gaetan Duval at meetings when he proclaimed: “nous mem maris” (nous les coqs, pas cocus, pas poules’) and therefore subconsciously admit their husband’s superiority.

I don’t know whether their “mari” with a sense of superiority occurs in the dictionary by Arnaud Carporan or whether a Haitian or Martiniquais would use it likewise. By the way, the cock as emblem of PMSD and subsequently of PMXD was adopted in honour of Jules Koenig who was a barrister of great fighting spirit and tenacity.

Watch your language: One more example to conclude.

One can often hear on our radios: “les funerailles auront lieu ultérieurement.” Ultérieurement cannot exist without antérieurement! Does it mean burying a person alive? I suppose many a politician would like to throw his opponent into “la poubelle de l’histoire” and not go to that extreme.

May I suggest using, instead of “ultérieurement”: “les funerailles auront lieu à une date pas encore determinée ou à une date à être fixée »

  * Published in print edition on 10 October 2014

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